“There were four people in our family but Mum always cooked enough food for ten,” says Joseph Vargetto. “There were always leftovers for my lunch box the next day. Mum would pack spaghetti and meatballs (she made small ones, polpette) into one of the containers in my lunch box with a plastic fork that I always brought back home so that she could wash it and use it again. My family was thrifty like that – nothing was ever wasted.”
1kg tipo ‘00’ flour
150ml olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely crushed
10 ripe red tomatoes, finely chopped and salted
¼ bunch of basil, chopped
500g minced beef
500g minced pork
200g pancetta, finely minced
110g dry breadcrumbs
140g parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ bunch of rosemary, finely chopped
1 pinch of dried chilli
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. For the pasta, mix the flour and eggs together in a mixing bowl until the dough is well-combined. If using a stand mixer, attach dough hook to your mixer and work dough for about 3 minutes, then tip out on the bench and finish kneading by hand for another 2 minutes or so until the dough is well-combined. Allow the dough to rest for at least 1 hour.
2. Pass the dough through a pasta maker (starting at the thickest setting) until you roll down to the thinnest setting. Once you have a thin pasta sheet, cut it into 20cm lengths. Flour well, place all the sheets on top of each other and roll into a cigar shape. Cut the pasta into desired width to achieve a hand cut spaghetti (or a rough-cut tagliatelle).
3. For the sauce, heat a large heavy-based pan. Add the olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. Allow to gently fry, then add the tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes to reduce the excess water. Near the end of the cooking, add the basil, salt and pepper, to taste. Finish off with extra-virgin olive oil.
4. For the meatballs, mix the minces, pancetta, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, eggs, herbs, chilli, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Roll into 1-inch balls. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, and coat with oil. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Add the meatballs to the simmering pasta sauce and heat until fully cooked through (this takes about 10 minutes).
5. In a medium-sized pot bring salted water to the boil, then add your pasta and cook for about 4 minutes. Strain but keep a little pasta water to toss through sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the meatballs, using pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve in large bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan or pecorino.
This is an edited extract from Siciliano by Joseph Vargetto, published by Melbourne Books (RRP $49.95). Available now from good booksellers, online and in-store.
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